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Dr. Gia Sison on Surviving Cancer, Cultivating Resilience, and Challenging Your Negative Thoughts

Dr. Gia Sison on Surviving Cancer, Cultivating Resilience, and Challenging Your Negative Thoughts
Dr. Gia B. Sison still remembers the date and time when she found out she had breast cancer: February 26, 2013 at 2:30pm. She was on the phone with her dad when she happened to cross one arm over her chest and then felt a hard lump in her breast. Since she was a physician, she knew right away it was cancer. 

Her story of surviving breast cancer was the takeoff point for her talk during the #YouGotThis: Rewrite Your Story summit. Aside from talking about what her battle with a life-threatening disease was like and even revealing some fears she still carries, she also imparted some of the valuable lessons she has learned from that ordeal. Read on for some of the insights shared by Doc Gia, who’s now a mental health advocate and the head of the Makati Medical Center’s Wellness Center.

On how her cancer battle has shaped her: 
It shaped me into a person who appreciates life more and doesn't take things for granted. For example, if I just see a sunset, I'm already happy. I was asked before, “What is surviving? What does surviving cancer mean?” I said it's seeing the sunrise. Every day of my life, I wouldn't know if I will still wake up. Those simple things in life, they’re the ones that really count. We tend to look for grander things in life but when you start to appreciate what you have now, that's when it starts to grow. 

On the value of self-awareness: 
It pays to know or be aware of how you feel. It also pays to feel all your emotions because not all days are good. Some days are just not good and that's something we need to accept. Emotions are there for a reason. We have to embrace them but let's not cling to them so much that we identify with them. 

On what being courageous means to her: 
It's accepting that we are weak at some point in our lives and that we have to embrace our being vulnerable. We have to embrace that we are scared before we start to appreciate what it means to be brave. It's not being brave right away. It can't be. It's a process. It's accepting the fear that's within, but also accepting the fact that faith trumps fear. That's being brave for me. 

On building resilience: 
We all have resiliency. It's not a gift, we all have it. But before we develop it, we really have to start facing obstacles and accepting our challenges, start to embrace them. We may fail, but it doesn't mean that our identity is failure all the time. In fact, we need to fail to succeed. 

On challenging your negative self-talk: 
Ask yourself, ‘What do I tell myself every day?’ If you keep telling yourself ‘I'll never make it,’ ‘I'm a complete failure,’ you're going to start imbibing that. Having a change in perspective will help, so challenge your thought process. 

We can't help it—every day you may have negative thoughts, that's fine. All feelings are valid. But whenever a destructive thought enters your mind, try to challenge it. Watch what you tell yourself and realize that we cannot control everything so we manage things that are within our control, like our behavior, our habits, and how we see things.


To hear more about Doc Gia’s story of surviving breast cancer, along with her tips for looking after your mental health, catch up on our interview, titled “Be Resilient and Relentless: Fighting Your Battles With Courage.” Click here for the full video. (You can start at the 28:00 mark.)